Tijuana Xolos Week 17 Preview: Xolos Finish Off Season at Home vs Veracruz

Credit: LIGA MX

Credit: Xolos

Game: Tijuana Xolos vs Veracruz

When: Saturday, May 6, 2017

Where: Estadio Caliente

Time: 7:00 P.M. PST

The regular season of the Liga MX Clausura 2017 is coming to an end. This Saturday, May 6, the Tijuana Xolos will play their final regular season game of the tournament at home against Veracruz. The Xolos and Miguel Herrera will be looking to finish in first place while Veracruz is a side that is looking to make the playoffs. The match should prove to be a thrilling contest with both teams being motivated to obtain the three points from the game.

The Xolos are coming from what might have been the team’s worst loss of 2017. The Aztec Canines were torn apart by Tigres UANL and lost 3-0 away from home. The attack for the border city side seemed almost nonexistent in the game and will need to improve going into the playoffs. There were some key absences for Tijuana in that game that will still be absent this Saturday. Milton Caraglio did not play against Tigres UANL, but it does appear that the Argentine striker will be back against Veracruz.

Two players that will be out for this game will be defenders, Damian Perez and Michael Orozco. The loss of those two will be a big blow to the team, especially Damian Perez, who was missed in the game against Tigres UANL. Perez does provide a lot going forward in attack, apart from his defensive capabilities, and that was something the Xolos needed in last week’s game. Another possible absence for Club Tijuana for this game could be Joe Corona. The San Diego native was active against Tigres UANL, but appears to have discomfort in his neck which could have him out of the starting 11 this Saturday. Whether Corona does play or not, Miguel Herrera will have some key absences for this game and getting a favorable result could prove to be difficult even playing at home.

A win here is not necessary for the Aztec Canines, but it is useful to go into the playoffs with some momentum. Club Tijuana failed to go into the Apertura 2016 playoffs with momentum and was instantly knocked out of the competition in the first round. While finishing in first place is not always ideal in the Liga MX, if the Xolos do get the win they will accomplish a feat that no other team has done. Since the short tournament format started in 1997, no team has finished in first place in back to back tournaments. The border city side did finish in first place in the Apertura 2016 competition and will be looking to do the same in this Clausura 2017 tournament.

Veracruz is a team with a long and storied history in the Liga MX that just avoided going down into the second division of Mexican soccer (again). Veracruz has gone down into the second division a record four times, the last time being in 2008. Miguel Herrera was actually the manager of that team before his days at the Mexican national team or Club America. Going into this game, Los Escualos will have a plethora of motivations. Los Tiburones Rojos just saved themselves from relegation and are now looking to make the playoffs. Veracruz has exceeded expectations in this tournament and is currently in 11th place with 21 points.

Los Jarochos are coming off two consecutive victories where they did not concede any goals against Monterrey and Pumas UNAM. Veracruz came into those games as underdogs, but prevailed and got the three points from both games.The win against Pumas UNAM was particularly impressive as it came on the road at the Estadio Olimpico Universitario. Veracruz won 2-0 and it was the first time Los Tiburones achieved a road victory since 2015.

The Estadio Olimpico Universitario is a tough venue, like the Estadio Caliente, and the home-field advantage may not play a role in this match for the Xolos. A substantial change in the club occurred when Juan Antonio Luna became the head coach of the club. Luna coached the Xolos in the second division in 2009 and 2010 and it will be interesting to see how he does in his return to the Estadio Caliente. “El Cabezon” implemented a very distinctive style of playing, utilizing more passing and distribution of the ball. His main striking option is attacking midfielder, Angel Reyna, who plays as an unconventional false nine in behind two pacey wingers. Veracruz can prove to be menacing going forward, but will also give a good fight in defense with a very talented goalkeeper in Pedro Gallese. Los Escualos could prove to be a great test for the Tijuana Xolos and should be able to give an entertaining duel.

Credit: Xolos

Players To Watch

Former Xolos

There are two players on Veracruz that once played for Club Tijuana. Those two are the midfield pair of Egidio Arevalo Rios and Cristian Pellerano. The two once played in Tijuana at distinct stages of their careers and are now doing wonders for Veracruz this tournament. Arevalo Rios has always been known as a real grinder that will give 110 percent in each encounter. That effort has earned the Uruguayan veteran the captaincy of the club. Arevalo Rios scored the lone goal that gave Veracruz the victory over Monterrey last week and will be a key player to watch here.

Cristian Pellerano spent 2012-2014 with the Tijuana Xolos and was part of the famed Apertura 2012 championship team. Pellerano was kind of like an older version of Guido Rodriguez when he played in Tijuana and there is still glimpses of that in his play at 35. Pellerano still grinds it out for the possession of the ball in each play and has a superb passing ability that can generate key scoring opportunities. The experience the pair have playing on the Estadio Caliente’s synthetic turf can also serve as an advantage to these two players. The two are among the most experienced players on the club, but are also among the most important, and will be ones to watch in this encounter.

Aviles Hurtado

Aviles Hurtado did not generate much in the game against Tigres UANL and what he did generate he sent over the crossbar. The Colombian forward is still one of the top goal-scorers in the Liga MX with eight goals. Hurtado is in a contested goal-scoring title race with four other players and will look to crown himself as the league’s top goal-scorer with an impressive performance in this match. The Xolos’ top forward has not scored in two consecutive games now and will look to turn it around in this match.

Hurtado does somehow pull off some sort of magic in each match. His vision and dribbling ability are among the best in the league and he could have a lot more goals if he was more clinical in front of net. Often, Hurtado will launch a ball into the stands after making three opposing players look silly. Tijuana will have a high reliance on Hurtado and the offense to get some goals in this game with a fragile defense that may allow a few goals.

The Verdict

The match should be a thrilling encounter and will be at the same time as four other Liga MX games. The Xolos are going into the game as heavy favorites, but it is much closer than the odds say. Veracruz has turned a new leaf and is a team that will look for the three points from the game to get into the playoffs. The Xolos will look for the three points not just to finish as the first-place team, but to go into the playoffs with some much-needed momentum. The key absences for Miguel Herrera could prove to be a deciding factor in the game, as it was against Tigres UANL. The offensive presence particularly lost in the fullback slots could prove to be the biggest downfall for the Xolos. Playing at home, it is hard to imagine that the border city side will fall in its fortress. The prediction for the game is not an L for the Aztec Canines but a thrilling 2-2 draw with Aviles Hurtado scoring both goals for the home side. The match will be one to watch as the Xolos play their last regular season game and gear up for the playoffs. Fuerza Tijuas!

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Francisco Velasco
Francisco, 21, Chula Vista area, Journalism student at Southwestern College. I have been a Padres fan all my life, did most of the series previews and recaps in the Padres' 2016 season for EVT. Now I focus more on the Tijuana Xolos soccer team, get press passes for every home game and write consistently about the team for EVT.

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